Practice Report: February 12, 2021

February 14, 2021

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I spoke with Jeff Young for over an hour about rotation. The talk led me to several insights, but perhaps this one was key: now that I understand rotation better, I can put rotation on the ball intentionally and with confidence, which has already led to a noticeable improvement on the lanes.

I spent a two-hour practice session on Friday with one goal: to develop an awareness for the feeling of putting good rotation on the ball.

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Going into this session, I wanted primarily to practise the "one hand clapping" trick that Jeff taught me. I hoped that this would help me connect directly with the feeling of putting abundant rotation on the ball. I developed this rough plan:

  1. Isolate the "one hand clapping" trick with some opening drills. Don't pay any attention to where the ball goes. Don't even worry about hitting a target. Just clap the hand and develop that feeling.
  2. Add back the other aspects of the game one at a time: look at a target, then pay attention to approach speed, then pay attention to staying upright at the moment of release.
  3. Start with the Cobras, then switch to the Aramiths once I feel comfortable enough with the basics. Become aware of the difference between throwing the various balls with the "one hand clapping" trick.
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After throwing only a few balls using the "one hand clapping" trick I already noticed a big difference: I was throwing the ball harder, it was traveling straighter, and I felt more relaxed. It took only a few minutes to feel my confidence building. I had some insights along the way:

Forget about trying to throw a backup ball. Throw the ball with good rotation and the ball will come out of the hand with backup spin. It took me over an hour to stop trying to throw the ball with backup movement. Gradually I stopped turning my elbow inside or turning my wrist. Instead, I simply let the weighted grip do its job: when I "clap" with the 3-4-5 fingers upon releasing the ball, it automatically comes out with left-to-right spin and my Cobras move a few boards on the bone-dry lane conditions we usually have out here.

I can't "clap" too hard. I don't think I can go wrong by trying to clap my hand harder. I can always safely try to do more of it. Of course, I have to be careful not to try too hard to do it too much. As we discussed in the interview, if I exaggerate the motion in practice to build the habit, then when I'm not thinking about it, I'll do it autonomically and just enough. I already saw some of that towards the end of the practice session.

With good rotation comes more speed. I started launching my Cobras (4 3/4", 3 lb 6 oz). I'm guessing that I averaged over 40 km/h and was routinely throwing them out at the arrows. Ironically, this meant that they moved less than the big, scary Aramiths (5", 3 lb 11 1/4 oz), since I can't throw them nearly as hard. I was getting about 3 boards of movement from the Cobras and more like 7-10 boards of movement from the Aramiths.

I started to feel more confident towards the end of this practice, which naturally led me to a more-solid follow-through and a more-relaxed approach. By the end of the 2 hours, I was really happy with my overall approach, arm swing, release, follow through, and I saw some amazing pin splash. I was even holding the follow through as the ball went through the pins. (Yes, Chelsea! I did it!)

Click here to see a detailed rundown of what I did in practice

Practice notes: February 12, 2021. Rotation.

  • Warm up (6 minutes)
  • Just get the feel of clapping the hand, using the Cobras (8 min.)
  • Focus on noticing how it feels to clap the hand. Cobras. (12 min.)
  • Try to clap the hand with the Aramiths. (6 min.) I didn't notice the snap of the fingers as much, but the pins bounced like they were scared.
  • Try the baby hook with the Aramiths, in order to try to feel the snap of the fingers more. (4 min.) This seemed to help.

At this point I had the insight about not trying to throw a backup ball, but instead letting the grip and the "clapping" motion do that for me. I decided to test this hypothesis.

  • Stop trying to throw a backup ball, but instead just get good rotation and let the ball come out of the head however it wants. Cobras. (16 min.) I noticed that the ball mostly went straight, but with 2-3 boards of left-to-right movement.
  • Throw a shot with each ball (rotating through the 2 Cobras and 2 Aramiths). No approach: just one step, arm swing, and release. Focus intently on the feeling of the ball coming off the fingers and hear the clap. (10 min.)
  • Go back to the full approach and focus intently on releasing the ball with a straight wrist. Aramiths. (10 min.)
  • Putting everything out of my mind and test my muscle memory. Cobras. (10 minutes.) This time I noticed only about 3 shots where I tried to turn the wrist. The rest felt correct.
  • Cool down.
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I feel quite confident about putting Jeff's recommendations into practice. I threw the ball harder, with more confidence, and quite consistently. I still hear Tom Paterson's voice in my head reminding me not to get too much in my head, but now that I understand rotation better, I'll likely succeed more in integrating this idea into my overall game. I look forward to doing this during league play this coming Wednesday, where my plan involves simply trying to throw every ball with really good rotation and letting whatever happens happen.

While putting all this material together, I flashed back to a memory from when I was about 17. I don't even know why I remember this. When I bowled at Brampton Bowl as a kid, one day, Wade Thompson and I were talking about this very topic. He picked up a ball and said, "There's a big difference between this..." and he threw the ball flat "...and this!" where he put wicked fingers on the ball. I couldn't really see the difference and, for whatever reason, I didn't ask. Today, 29 years later, I think I get it.

Better late than never.

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After all this...

Tell me!